Last weekend I free fell fast and deep into the first weekend of a year-long course, Facilitation for Leaders, run by London-based CFOR. The course is one of those things I do for my work and for myself. It’s not always enjoyable, it’s sometimes painful, it’s almost always scary. But it’s worth it, and it’s part of my journey to really becoming me, with a view towards becoming a better factilitator and human being.
connected * dis-connected * re-connected
One core skill for facilitators is personal awareness. What’s going on for me?
How am I feeling, what am I thinking? What’s going on for the group?
And really ( … pause, body scan … ) what do I feel, what’s going on for the group?
What role do I play in that? What role could I play in helping the group do its best?
We’re studying and practicing skills for working and doing conflict differently, in ways that help individuals and groups work through past blocks is one, with a eye to transforming relationships.
Over and over again this weekend, the course facilitators said something that is so simple, and so true, yet often difficult for people to grasp. That is – recognising our interconnectedness and that working on issues ‘out there in the world’, is connected to working on our own personal relationships.
We play out macro (global) dynamics in our micro (world), whether that’s in our families, with friends, at work or the groups we’re part of. Key to tending to the world’s ills is to heal our own.
If we are to resolve BIG issues like the Israel-Palestine conflict, or heal the trauma from years of Apartheid or deal authentically and pro-actively with the uncomfortable feelings like those from Scotland’s recent independence referendum brings up (to give a sample from our conversations over the weekend), then we also need to deal with the conflicts that happen in our own kitchens. Working on ourselves is to work on big picture-issues too.
solidarity in action
Anne Bishop in her book – Becoming an Ally: Breaking the cycle of oppression in people – says it so well, drawing inspiration from her text on page 96.
Unconscious pain is both collective and individual. For example, African-descended people, whether they have experienced abuse or not, carry the memory of slavery. Even when removed from the situation, peoples who have experienced oppression carry the scars. Jews, Roma, Palestinians, Armenians, Kurds, First Nations people, and many others cannot just walk away from the injuries of their histories. European-descended people – like me – whether we have a personal memory of childhood abuse, carry the larger cultural memories of the centuries when mistreatment of women, children, people of colour, the poor, and people who follow religions other than Christianity were made an unacceptable part of Western society. Teacher and activist Starhawk calls the Inquisition the abusive past of Western civilisation and believes all descents of those who went through the Inquisition from 1300 to 1700 carry fears, distrust, and pain from that time.
speaking and healing
In both collective and individual healing speaking out (in some way, through sharing, art, personal work, …) is vital. It is the courageous act of breaking out of secrecy, privacy and shame to contact others suffering similar pain that eventually leads to an understanding of the root causes and then healing.
This course is a space of becoming aware of life’s small moments when I can do things ever so slightly differently and really be me, inviting myself into wholeness. It’s about unlearning those
automatic body and verbal responses like ‘fine, I’m fine, thanks, and you?’ and being more mindful about how do I really feel, consider the context and then with consideration deciding whether to follow a social script like ‘I’m fine, thanks, and you?’ or share more deeply and differently. And then we’ll see where the conversation goes from there.
The first challenge for me is ‘how am I really‘? So many of life’s lessons have taught me to ‘be ok’, ‘it’s not so bad’, and ‘well, what do you expect’ that I’ve developed an armour against disappointment. And fear. And other uncomfortable feelings. It’s a generational (in terms of me and my identity) and a personal learning spiral. So this mere exercise of ‘hello, how are you?’ is my challenge for now. How about you? How do you feel and what do you say when asked? It’s a simple but hard exercise. I invite you to give it a try.
want to know more?
I don’t know much about process oriented psychology (the foundation of the facilitation method I’m studying) and I don’t yet have a hand on what my project is (the aim the course is to see a blocked creative project to its next phase or more) but I’ve read a few books and I expect that’s what this year is all about!
Shadow Dance: Liberating the power and creativity of your dark side by David Richo. I read and did most of the exercises in this book during the three months I was in Kenya (2010) setting up a new nonviolence campaigning project. It was in Kenya that I began to introduce myself as an artist (ahh, always will be a sweet moment for me!). And this book was part of that journey. I recommend it! I am so grateful to my friend Kat for telling me about this book, thank you.
Sitting in the Fire: Large group transformation using conflict and diversity by Arnold Mindell. My number one recommended begginer’s book (full of case studies) while grounded in the theory of process oriented psychology. The Mindells (Arnie works with his wife Amy) both are reknown as the founders of this work.
Faciliting group learning: strategies for success with diverse adult learners by George Lakey is for people who do what the title says, work with diverse adult learners. Lakey is the pionner applying process oriented psychology concepts to the field of informal grassroots social change learning. His thinking is gold. And if you do work like I do, and you don’t know Training for Change, the organisation Lakey set up way back when, then check them out. More gold dust. Lucky you!
And if you are in London, lucky you too! The CFOR folks hold regular and a range of classes for anyone interested in dipping in or someone really interested in knowing more.